Do you have a workplace drug prevention program established at your business? Find out how to create one of these programs to improve employee safety and productivity while reducing costs of running your business Sam hired a temporary crew member for his busy home construction company. Sam told his main supervisor, Allan, that Mike, the new crew member, had begged him for a job after being laid off as a machine operator for an auto parts factory. Mike had a family to support and the pandemic was making it especially difficult for him to find a job.
Sam noticed that Allan and Mark became fast friends. They took lunches together, bantered back and forth while working, and had their families over to each other’s homes on the weekends for cookouts. But Sam also began noticing changes in Allan that were concerning.
One day, when Sam found Allan’s jacket lying on the ground near a backhoe he should have been operating, Sam picked up the jacket and discovered why Allan had “changed.”
A blackened crack pipe fell out of the pocket of Allan’s jacket.
Recognizing Signs of Drug Addiction in Employees
Anyone can become a drug addict, including the most hard-working employees at your place of work. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports nearly 20 million people living in the U.S. are currently addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The most commonly used substances are prescription stimulants (Adderall, Dexedrine), prescription pain medications (Vicodin, Oxycodone), alcohol, methamphetamines, and heroin.
Some employers mandate employee drug testing several times a year to reduce workplace drug abuse, but many small businesses cannot afford testing. Physical signs of drug abuse to watch for include:
- Bloodshot/heavy-lidded eyes
- Unusually dilated or “pinpoint” pupils
- Rapid weight loss
- Neglecting personal hygiene (especially when an employee previously took care of their appearance)
- Trembling hands/clumsiness/lack of coordination
- Odd odors; (inhalant addicts often smell of glue, paint or gasoline)
- Calling in sick more than before
Psychological signs of employee drug addiction depend on how the employee previously behaved. For example, if an employee who is normally outgoing and energetic exhibits dramatic changes in personality (mood swings, irritability, reduced productivity), employers should ask the employee if there is anything they can do to help the employee with possible problems at home.
In some cases, the employee may admit they are using drugs and want help but don’t know where to get it. Another common scenario involving addicted employees when confronted with their addiction is the classic denial, followed by excuses and falsehoods regarding physical and psychological changes:
“I’ve had the flu for weeks and can’t shake it off.”
“I only drink on the weekends. I’m not an alcoholic.”
“I don’t use drugs. Go ahead and drug test me! I’m clean.”
“I haven’t changed. What are you talking about?”
5 Components of a Workplace Drug Prevention Program
Employers should understand anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol, including the husband and father who coaches his son’s Little League baseball team or the wife and mother who works full-time while caring for an aging parent. If you suspect an employee is struggling with addiction and have yet to establish a workplace drug prevention program, FHE can help. Call us today for advice concerning what you should do to help your employee.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that a workplace drug prevention program should support workplace safety and health by developing and cultivating drug-free workplace policies. Policies should include preventing abuse of alcohol and drugs, reducing substance abuse in the workplace by implementing wellness and health programs, and providing employees with access to addiction intervention services.
Your program should be clearly defined in a written policy that minimally includes the following key points:
- Why you (the employer) are beginning this program. (Examples: to comply with industry regulations, promote the health and well-being of employees, and sustain company goals that lead to long-term success)
- What you expect from employees following implementation of the drug prevention program. These expectations could include consequences for not taking advantage of services (for employees with substance abuse issues) or how to report an employee suspected of using drugs in the workplace
Training for Supervisors and Managers
Create training sessions designed for leaders to educate them about substance addiction, policy specifics, and how to properly document possible addiction issues in employees. Legal aspects of confidentiality involving referrals to addiction services should also be included in supervisor training classes.
Educating Employees About Workplace Drug Prevention Policies
Employers might consider giving all employees two copies of the workplace drug prevention policy–one to keep and one to sign and turn in to their supervisor. Educational sessions should be held several times a year to keep employees apprised of the success of the policy and of any changes to the policy.
Providing ongoing drug addiction education to employees is essential to making a drug prevention program succeed. One reason is that many people still harbor false beliefs about what why someone is a drug addict. They may think drug addicts “choose” to take drugs because they do not want to be responsible adults. They may have had bad experiences with a drug-addicted family member who stole money from them. They may have tried to help someone with a drug addiction who refused their help and now think it is useless to “waste their time and energy” on other drug addicts.
Educating employees about workplace drug prevention should include clear information about the science behind drug addiction, how someone becomes addicted, and why it is so difficult to beat an addiction. Explaining that addiction is no different than a chronic medical disease can help others be more sympathetic and understanding if a co-worker has a substance abuse disorder.
Many workplaces must drug test employees at least once a year to comply with insurance and federal requirements. If your company is not mandated to give drug tests, explain to employees the importance of drug testing and why it is so vital to a successful workplace drug prevention program (increases safety of others, reduces overhead costs). While most employees have no problem with drug testing, a few may balk at the idea and claim it violates their rights.
Some states have passed laws limiting employer drug screening of employees. In general, employers must have valid reasons for mandating employee drug tests. Justifications for drug testing include:
- jobs that pose safety risks to the employee and others
- current employee enrollment in an addiction recovery program
- or a recorded workplace accident where drug use was a contributing cause
Employee Drug Abuse Assistance Programs
An employee drug abuse assistance program is a critical component of any workplace drug prevention plan. FHE Health partners with employers in South Florida to help them set up an employee assistance relationship with our treatment center in Deerfield Beach. When they have a direct line to our inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health services, employers can provide employees with immediate help for their drug addiction, alcoholism, or mental health problems. FHE also offers treatment for behavioral addictions such as gambling, Internet, and compulsive shopping.
Improving workplace health and safety for employees increases morale, productivity, and a sense of pride about being affiliated with your organization. Contact FHE today to learn how you can include an employee drug abuse assistance component in your drug prevention program.